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The persistent exposure of coral assemblages to more variable abiotic regimes is assumed to augment their resilience to future climatic variability. Yet, while the determinants of coral population resilience across species remain unknown, we are unable to predict the winners and losers across reef ecosystems exposed to increasingly variable conditions. Using annual surveys of 3171 coral individuals across Australia and Japan (2016-2019), we explore spatial variation across the short- and long-term dynamics of competitive, stress-tolerant, and weedy assemblages to evaluate how abiotic variability mediates the structural composition of coral assemblages. We illustrate how, by promoting short-term potential over long-term performance, coral assemblages can reduce their vulnerability to stochastic environments. However, compared to stress-tolerant, and weedy assemblages, competitive coral taxa display a reduced capacity for elevating their short-term potential. Accordingly, future climatic shifts threaten the structural complexity of coral assemblages in variable environments, emulating the degradation expected across global tropical reefs


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amplification, demography, FFR, resilience, subtropical, transient dynamics, integral projection model (IPM)